IT failure renders NHS data inaccessible in Scottish hospitals

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A technical hitch at Scotland’s largest health board has left hospital staff unable to access clinical and administrative data.

An IT problem that developed yesterday (October 1st) and remains unresolved has meant Scotland’s largest health board has had to cancel a number of operations and postpone hundreds of outpatient appointments.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) experienced a system-wide crash on Tuesday morning, rendering it impossible for staff at ten major hospitals to access clinical and administrative data – including patient records.

Technical staff reportedly worked through the night to no avail, forcing the health board to shut down services and issue an apology to the hundreds of affected individuals.

In total, 288 outpatients have so far been turned away from hospitals in the Glasgow area, while four planned inpatient procedures, 23 day surgery cases and 40 chemotherapy sessions have been postponed.

A statement from the health board, issued at 06:28 BST today, said: "Despite the best efforts of our IT technical staff who have worked throughout the night we have as yet been unable to resolve the problem."

Adding that while a "fix" had been put in place so that a number of chemotherapy sessions can proceed as planned, it admitted: "Unfortunately however there will still be some patients whose planned appointments today will be affected and we are currently in the process of assessing which patients this will impact upon."

The NHSGGC failure shows just how huge the impact of data loss can be to an organisation. If losing access to business-critical information means you can’t deliver goods and services on time, backup solutions become profoundly important.

Ministers hope that the NHS can become paperless by 2018, with an investment of £1 billion announced last month to that end. Done properly, this will make it much easier for clinicians to get their hands on patient records – but failures like the one in Glasgow highlight that implementing such a system can be a minefield.

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